By: Dave Abrahams
Santa Monica, California - The long, low motorcycle you see here is the BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100, nicknamed the Great Escape.
It's the latest in a series of concept vehicles celebrating BMW's centenary that look ahead to where the Blue Propeller brand will be heading in the next 100 years, following the BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100 concepts, and it's been revealed at a BMW centenary exhibition now on at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.
But there's also a retro element at play here too: BMW Motorrad design head Edgar Heinrich sees motorcycling as an escape to reality - an analogue experience in a digital world.
That comes out in the all-black triangular frame, referencing the original R32 of 1923, with its traditional white pinstripes and the aluminium casing of the zero-emission power unit, styled to resemble a classic boxer twin, not least because the protruding 'pots' provide protection from the weather for the for the rider's legs and feet.
But then it gets all science-fiction:
The frame has no articulation, no joints or hinges; instead the whole chassis flexes vertically to provide steering - and stiffens up as the speed increases - while suspension and damping is provided by the tyres, which automatically adjust their tread and pressure to suit the road conditions.
Damping is provided by the tyres, whose variable tread actively adjusts to suit ground conditions and ensure the best possible grip in any situation.
Ergonomics are much the same as today's naked bikes, with a large metal reflector above the front wheel incorporating the daytime running light, which acts as a wind deflector, together with a small integrated fly-screen, to give the rider a measure of upperbody protection.
The seat, upper frame and wings are made of carbon fibre, and the rest of the frame is covered in a silky textile, with the translucent blue and white of the BMW logo backlit while the bike is running.
The zero-emission power unit takes the 'winged' shape of the traditional horizontally-opposed 'boxer' twin - at least while it's running; when the bike is switched off, the 'pots' retract to make it look much slimmer
Can't fall over.
The bike is permanently connected to the internet of things, looking ahead and alerting the rider when action is needed, anticipating danger so that you won't need a helmet or protective gear.
It's also self-balancing like a Segway, so it can't fall over and doesn't need a stand (although a work-stand will probably be necessary for when you need to switch the gyros off). While you're riding, the balancing system helps set the bike up for every turn, giving it very agile handling but still providing reassuring stability for the benefit of less experienced riders.
Special ridng gear
The Vision Next 100 and its special riding gear - an airy 'vento' suit in traditional black and white that warms you when it's cold and cools you when it's hot, with a pneumatic collar that inflates at high speeds to support your neck - work together to form a 'digital companion' that stays quietly in the background until needed, via a pair of data glasses that cover your entire field of vision, to protect your eyes and also display information in one of four fields, controlled by your eye movements.
Looking up or down changes the display - down for suggesting lines and banking angles for the next corner (and if you don't follow them in time the bike will do it for you), further down to open the satnav map for the route you're on. Look up for rear view, ahead for the menu - accessed by pointing a finger - and focus further ahead to switch it off so you can concentrate on riding.
Glad to know BMW still makes provision for that.